Back in 1976, Connecticut changed the way people in our state ride motorcycles. Until that year, anyone riding on a motorcycle had to be wearing a helmet. It was the law.
But when Connecticut repealed that law over 40 years ago, riders and their passengers were free. If you were older than 17 years old, you didn’t have to wear a helmet. You could feel that breeze in your hair without worrying about a thing.
Except, of course, the fact that you might be traveling upwards of 55 miles per hour with nothing protecting your head from the road whizzing by below.
In 2017, Connecticut is looking at bringing back the law. According to NPR, state legislators are exploring a new law making helmets mandatory, and they want to hear from riders.
I have a feeling I know what their answer will be, but I’m pretty torn over whether their answer matters. On the one hand, safety should be paramount. A quick search reveals that 13.10 cars out of 100,000 ended up in fatal crashes. 72.34 motorcycles out of 100,000 find the same fate. With numbers like that, helmets seem like a logical requirement.
But on the other hand, if you’re an adult, shouldn’t you have some autonomy to decide the risks you’re willing to take? Adults drink alcohol. Adults smoke cigarettes. Adults drive cars. All of these are inherently risky behaviors, but we let them do it because we let them decide for themselves if the risk is worth it. Motorcycle helmets aren’t all that different. Sure, leaving nothing between your head and the ground probably increases the likelihood of death in the event of a crash, but maybe that’s a chance riders are willing to take. And if it isn’t, it’s not like they can’t wear a helmet. They just don’t have to.
And for me, that’s the biggest question here. I don’t think the opinions of riders really matters because this debate is about the broader idea of whether the government has the responsibility to protect us from ourselves.
What do you think? Should the state legally require helmets for motorcyclists and their passengers?